Lexington city leaders are supporting a unique downtown hotel project to the tune of one million dollars. Council members decided Tuesday to spend the better part of an Urban Development Action Grant or UDAG money toward the 21c museum hotel project. One million dollars will be loaned to developers. Council member Julian Beard says the city will likely be asked to participate with more financial support.
An official kick off for a one and a half million dollar fundraising campaign for a downtown Lexington landmark is scheduled this evening. A birthday celebration is planned for the Kentucky Theater as it celebrates 90 years downtown. Guests are encouraged to come wearing a costume in tribute to their favorite movie character or movie era.
Some musicians at Eastern Kentucky University hope to make it more of a home for Mountain and Bluegrass music. Biology professor Bob Frederick thinks E-K-U can do a better job of recruiting and retaining students if it did more to embrace Appalachian culture. “It just struck me that this would be a unique way for a certain group of students to find a niche that might help them cope with the day to day rigors of being a student and maybe being an outlet for them,” said Frederick.
The establishment of new homeless shelters in Lexington would be impacted by a proposed change in zoning law. The amendment impacts all new adult day care centers which would include those serving the disabled and seniors. Council member Chris Ford says it’s important to balance community interests. “We want to make sure that we get it right to the benefit of all constituencies, you know, the impacted less fortunate in our community as well as neighbor and business interests,” said Ford.
Late night or early morning travel in downtown Lexington this week could present a few challenges. Temporary lane closures are planned along Main and Vine streets Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The closures are being done to accommodate striping work. The lane shut downs will run from ten p.m. until six a.m. all three days.
A proposed law that makes littering a civil violation will go before Lexington’s full council for a vote. By making it a civil violation, Patricia Knight, who chairs “Keep Lexington Beautiful,” says the city could prosecute more litter bugs. “People make the choice to litter, they should take the responsibility for it,” said Knight. Knight says most littering cases currently don’t result in punishment. She says the change would ease criminal prosecutions, but not eliminate them altogether.
A move to exempt the Bluegrass Airport from a tax that funds mandatory sewer improvements has failed. Officials at Bluegrass Airport believe Lexington should give the facility a tax break. They want their runways, taxi ways, and ramps exempted from the city’s storm water management fee. The fee, which is paid by public and private entities, will finance a half billion dollars in sanitary and storm water sewer improvements. Airport officials argue these are public surfaces, much like roadways. Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, who chaired the storm water management task force, says an exemption would set a bad precedent
Talk continues at city hall over a proposed affordable housing trust fund for Lexington. The idea, which has been under study for years, would finance homes for low-income residents. Proponents say the city could raise two-million dollars each year for the fund with a half-percent tax on insurance premiums. Council member Chris Ford says the time to act is now. “Nobody can refute the need. We can leave these chambers right now and drive throughout our districts and recognize the need. The question is will we respond and react to the need,” said Ford.
Fayette County’s criminal electronic monitoring program has grown substantially over the last three years. The ankle bracelet system was reviewed during an Urban County Council meeting Tuesday. Jail officials say 42 people are on electronic monitors currently. 39 of those individuals have not gone to trial. Jail Sargent Chris Toombs says there’s room for growth in the program. “We could have as many as need be. We can get over a hundred if that’s what the community requires and if the judges and city leadership wants to get together, then the jail can make that happen,” said Toombs.
Opening up Lexington to natural gas filling stations was a point of discussion today at City Hall. With natural gas cheap and plentiful, it’s prompting interest among some motorists. Council member Bill Farmer has heard a lot of buzz about the potential of natural gas as a cheap, clean-burning fuel. “I just became familiar with it from a couple of conversations in terms of how much natural gas there is here naturally and how many pipelines this state and this part of the state to supply natural gas to other parts of the country,” said Farmer.
There’s interest in a total overhaul of the Lexington’s historic downtown courthouse. Last week, the city indefinitely closed the building, which sits at the corner of Main and Upper Streets, to the public. Lexington General Services Commissioner Sally Hamilton says the 114 year old building has lead, asbestos and structural problems. “We know we have got a lot of lead in there, but we would like to have something in concrete that tells us exactly where the majority of that lead is and some of the recommendations on how to abate that,” said Hamilton.
Lexington’s effort to redo much of its sanitary and storm water sewer systems brings with it the cost of hiring consultants. The most recent engineering contract presented to Lexington’s council was for a half-million dollars. Council member Ed Lane says it deserves close scrutiny. “This should be the highest due diligence of our council is to make sure that our process is protecting our taxpayers and ratepayers and make sure we’re getting a fair return on our investment,” said Lane. Mayor Jim Gray agrees….saying city officials are closely tracking expenses.
FRANKFORT –The innovative and cost-saving U.S. 68 Double Crossover Diamond Interchange in Lexington has been recognized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials as one of the 10 best transportation projects in the United States.
Public golf in Lexington is on an uptick. In recent years, the Urban County Government had been subsidizing the five golf courses by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then last spring the green fees were reduced substantially and a golfer loyalty program implemented. Director of Golf Mike Fields says it has resulted in a turnaround. “I think it allowed us to get our rates in line with what the market demand was. We were out pricing ourselves, we didn’t have any programs in place to create any loyalty for our customers to keep returning to us,” said Fields.
News that Lexmark will lay-off hundreds of local workers has city leaders worried about their finances. The Lexington-based firm will reduce it’s workforce by 350 full-timers and 200 contract employees. According to one city official, such a job loss could result in a million dollar loss in revenues. Mayor Jim Gray says ‘our hearts go out to this folks who have been hit with this bad news, losing their jobs.’ Gray adds there can be no complacency when it comes to job creation.
It's more than seven weeks after July 4, and periodically, when the sun goes down, the Bluegrass still goes boom. That's why a committee of Lexington's Urban County Council passed a proposal to ban the purchase and detonation of aerial fireworks including bottle rockets, mortars and loud firecracker explosives.
They’ve heard from citizens across the state, so now members of a tax reform panel must make recommendations. The sixth and final public hearing by the Governor’s Task Force on Tax Reform was held Tuesday in Lexington. Lexington council member George Meyers predicts state lawmakers will make tax changes this time.
Fire crackers and flying fireworks would be banned in Lexington under a proposal discussed today at city hall. Members of the Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to restore the city’s fireworks ordinance of 20-10. A year later, the state legislature approved the expansion of fireworks, but allowed cities to adopt tighter restrictions. Council member Tom Blues says a flood of citizens complaints have come this summer. “It only takes one person to disturb and disrupt and annoy to the point of distraction almost an entire neighborhood,” said Blues.
Funds for road resurfacing are now divided up in Lexington according to the greatest need. But that formula doesn’t work well for Council member Tom Blues. His council district will get 117-thousand dollars, but Blues argues the need is nearly a million dollars in road work. “I’ve got 117 thousand dollars for one of the largest geographic districts in the city. I can virtually nothing with that money,” said Blues. Kevin Wente is with the Environmental Quality and Public Works Department. He says the new formula emphasizes neighborhoods with the biggest problems.
Livestock, like small goats and pigs, remain prohibited in urban Lexington’s backyards. A council committee this week rejected an exemption for those animals. Council Member Steve Kay sponsored the proposal.“I think we gave it a good shot. We may bring it back at some later time. But, I think for the moment, it’s off the table,” said Kay. Critics of an exemption for goats and pigs worry about waste, noise and enforcement. Council member Doug Martin believes the vast majority of Lexington’s residents don’t want pigs or goats living in their neighborhoods.
Property taxes in Fayette County will remain unchanged. The city council stuck with tradition and voted Tuesday to keep the rates at their current level. Given Lexington’s fiscal troubles, outgoing council member Doug Martin was disappointed with the action. “I think it is irresponsible to leave these rates alone, knowing what we know about the financial storm that is headed for this city,” said Martin. Martin has repeatedly expressed concerns about the ever growing cost of police and fire fighter pensions. Council member Kevin Stinnett argued a tax increase would be hasty.
Lexington city leaders come back after a summer break with a taxing issue on their minds. Besides setting property tax rates, council members will seek funds for street lights. Those funds now come from an increased tax on utilities. Now, Vice Mayor Linda Gorton says they might reverse that tax increase and increase the city’s streetlight tax.
A public hearing format new to many in Lexington is being held to consider issues related to homelessness. It’s called ‘Open Space’ and involves constructive group discussion on a public issue. The ‘Open Space’ program is scheduled from nine a.m. until 4:30 Saturday August 25th at Calvary Baptist Church. The meeting is sponsored by the Mayor’s Commission on Homelessness. Under the ‘Open Space’ format, the agenda is not set in advance. The Commission’s meeting will be centered on the question, ‘What should our community think about, know about, and do in order to best address the opportunities and challenges presented by homelessness?’
Lexington is looking to boost the size of its police force. Applications are now being accepted for a police academy. class.Lexington’s police department is authorized for 555 officers. 23 police recruits are being sworn in Friday, but the new count will still be significantly shy of authorized strength. So, applications are being accepted now for a new police academy to begin in February or March.